Have you always been an artist? No. I've always been a poet, philosopher and explorer right from a child. I started painting in 1998 after being laid up by a climbing injury. I woke up one day and said, "I'm going to start painting portraits!" It was my way of dealing with the depressing effect of the injury.
Where did you learn to paint? I'm self-taught, but I have had some good advice from a couple of painters along the way.
Like what? Jerzy Michalske, the Polish painter told me not to practice copying the masters, instead practice on nature to develop my own signature. Andrew Dewhurst, a technically brilliant artist from Hobart suggested I try using oil bar sticks. I did and never looked back. They are so vivid and immediate.
Who is your favourite Australian artist? George Gittoes. He is a master storyteller. I love his use of colour. He's charted some deep chasms of human suffering and found beauty among the ashes of human stupidity. If there's a hope in Hell, he'll find it and show us, at great cost to his person.
What about the great masters of the past? Van Gogh. He hated being told 'You don't paint like that, paint like this'. He taught himself with a book and by following his own expression. Because he stuck to his own path, we get to see the beautiful truth instead of boring lines of oppression! That's bloody important, remember that. I see some art dealers telling people what's important art and I laugh. Take off you blindfolds, get to know an artist and make up your own minds. Trust yourself. If you buy a painting, buy something you believe in. Remember Art's more important than money. When you know the true belief in something, others will follow. In the end people are looking for meaning and truth.
Do you paint just about people? No. I enjoy nature. It can be relaxing to paint the natural world. I love the soulful abstract painting too - particularly to convey the power and beauty of nature. Go and have a look at one of Stephen Lees' landscapes. It's a spiritual experience. I have collectors who love my abstracts only. Others like my paintings about Tasmanian Bush Rangers or Jack the Ripper. I love painting stories and characters from the 1800's. All these things have something to convey. They are all important to me.
Many artists seem to be searching for something. Are you searching for something in your work? I'm searching for what it means to be human, and then to share that journey. I have one solid maxim: every work of art I create should be undeniable. I strive for that always. It's my compass in the sea of information. This is hard to always achieve and I'm sure I'll spend the rest of my life working it out. This is what I meant by sharing the journey. The great questions of life are more of a journey than a static answer. If we work out the secrets of the brain tomorrow, the search for understanding won't end there.